Respond to First Red Flags
First red flag warnings are everywhere. A woman I will call Deb was preparing to speak at a conference when she got a big red flag in the form of a disturbing email from the association’s education director. Meant for a staff member, the email was filled with sniping remarks about her! Believing she had a good relationship with the client, Deb was surprised by the unprofessional comments. Deb surmised that a rude conversation had taken place between the two co-workers at her expense. “Why would I want to speak at a conference when I’m being undermined behind the scene?” Deb asked. With courage, she replied to the director’s email: “Did I miss a cue or is something wrong?”
The director quickly discounted the errant email by writing: “That email was one that people tell stories about in business magazines… It was meant for…” Deb wanted to forget the incident but struggled for weeks with the nagging “first red flag” warning. In business for over ten years, she had learned the hard way that one red flag usually follows another, indicating a situation in danger of spiraling out of control. With the insight of her own past mistakes, Deb hoped she would be wrong but grew increasingly concerned.
Needless to say, she was not surprised when her presentation did not go well, and she now has a stronger resolve to honor the first red flag. Ultimately, Deb learned a hard lesson: respond directly to the ambiguity represented by that first red flag warning by implementing a courage action called “confront uncomfortable truths.”
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